What’s in a name? …in a word: #everything.

unedited.

“If you don’t mind me asking, why tamia rashima and not Tamia Rashima?”…

…I’m surprised I don’t this question more often but I love it when I do because I get to tell my origin story. …or at least one of them.

Well I finally got this question this week at work. Actually it wasn’t specifically about me. I just chose to make it about me. ;) In sending text to our Communications department I’d included a colleague’s name as lowercase first and last name. When the poster proof came back to me her name was uppercase. So I asked again and was asked to explain the request.

My response to this question follows:

Hi name redacted -

“Thanks for asking. I’d prefer for redacted to speak for herself, but I believe it is fair for me to share that her political, philosophical, and social justice values align with bell hooks. hooks, who I also adore, often says ‘it’s not about me, it’s about the message’ and for that reason she writes here name lowercase. I found an online excerpt that speaks to hooks’ rationale (below).

I also have written my name in lowercase for many years but for different reasons. Mine are to do with my father never having a birth certificate. He was born in Mississippi in a poor community and was delivered by a white midwife. A common story of the time is that the white midwives would often fail to file birth certificates for little Black babies. This has been an ongoing struggle in my father’s life. It’s actually impacted me as well. Until I was 10 my last name was spelled incorrectly on my birth certificate as “redacted.” Without a birth certificate for my father, it took my mother years to have that corrected. When it finally was it was on my father’s birthday in 1988 so my official birth certificate reads “amended February 17, 1988.”

What’s funny is that now since I’ve been doing lower so long, when I see my name in uppercase I don’t immediately recognize it as me and it makes me uncomfortable.

Again thanks for asking! I love when people ask.

~tamia

‘bell hooks’ is written in lower case to try to convey how “it is the substance of my books, not who is writing them, that is important” (Williams 1996, np) and, she has said, first writing under this name allowed her to speak “most directly to black women [with a] the voice I felt to be most truly mine – it was then that my voice was daring, courageous” (LeBlanc 1994, nd). http://writingcollaboration.wordpress.com/1-introduction/1a-bell-hooks/

So there you go folks. Let me know if you have any questions.

#ThankYouYes

Written while listening to my music the Winans Spotify playlist.

The Midwife by Monicka Hasan of My Best Self Art and Graphic Design

http://www.black-art-collage.com/

#ThankYouYes

unedited.

I have to share this story: I just arrived back home from RI. When I was less than a half mile from my home I stopped at a red light alongside a huge black SUV. In the backseat was a little white boy about 13 or so years old. I looked down and I looked up again and he was waving like crazy at me. …so I waved back. He then smiled at me with the brightest smile and huge beautiful eyes. Then he made the sign of a heart. …so I made it back and mimicked his move to throw the heart at me. Once again he beamed. Finally the light changed and we drove off. As I passed the car one more time prior to turning down my street, hence away from the vehicle he was in, he smiled and waved and waved until they were out of sight. I’m not going to lie when I arrived home and parked my car I cried a little bit. How awesome was that? How incredibly precious! I even thought to myself, “Did that really just happen?” …well I can assure you it did. …You know it’s certainly not everyday that happens. And forgive me being sexist here, but rarely do little boys that age care about much anyone let alone a complete stranger. ‪#‎WhatAGift‬ ‪#‎ThankYouYes‬

Do all the good... quote

 

 

At the Crossroads of Artistry & Activism: Dr. Harry Belafonte Visits Berklee College of Music

dr. belafonte

unedited.There was no shortage of great moments on last Thursday evening March 6, 2014. On that night Berklee College of Music honored Harry Belafonte – activist, humanitarian, actor, singer, truth teller – with an honorary doctorate and I was lucky to be in the number that evening to witness awe inspiring moment after moment after moment.

Each and every performance was perfect (no hyperbole). The show was visually stunning with many performing in bright colored Ankara and other ethnic flavored apparel. And that group of performers so accurately reflected the diversity of the Berklee community and the world.

It’s impossible to say what exactly was my top favorite moment. For one thing Belafonte’s speech included so many nuggets of wisdom and inspiration. He talked about his work down in Florida with The Dream Defenders which was especially meaningful to me having just this year worked to bring Ciara Taylor, the Political Director of the The Dream Defenders, to Berklee for our MLK Celebration Brunch. In Belafonte’s speech he passed down a message shared with him by actor and activist Paul Robeson calling “artists the guardians of truth.” The connection to Ciara’s message back in January that “artists are guardians of our future” was not lost on me. At the MLK brunch Ciara shared that ”As artists, as guardians of our culture, your most important attribute to this world is your responsibility to not only guide the future of this nation, but countries across the globe through music.”

Thank you Universe for confirmation that I’m on the right path.

I was shocked to learn of Dr. Belafonte’s connection to the 1984 film Beat StreetDespite owning Beat Street and having watched it more than any human should watch any one film, I had no idea his connection to it until last Thursday. Turns out Belafonte co produced the film as well as volumes 1 & 2 of the original motion picture soundtrack. He even wrote some of the soundtrack’s songs. I’ve since found this video of Dr. Belafonte, Kool Herc (the originator of hip hop), Melle Mel, and others discussing the film at New York City’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture back in August 2013.

I know my favorite moment included when, from my 3rd row center vantage point, I looked up and saw Dr. Belafonte singing “We Shall Overcome” and I was overcome: I began to ugly cry like a two year old. Sigh. You know in this space of reflection and appreciation I can still feel what I felt last Thursday. We all know there is something incredibly special – kinetic, electric, dynamic, palpable, visceral – when music and activism intersect. I left the Berklee Performance Center on Thursday feeling a sensation that I haven’t been able to shake since. …and I hope I never do.

Perhaps you’ll know that feeling too after viewing this video of an unreal rendition of “We are the World” performed at the event by Berklee students faculty and staff. Towards the middle of the performance Dr. Belafonte stood to join the Berklee performers. Despite pushing away the microphone away from his mouth, Belafonte’s mere presence in the choir brought immense joy to the crowd. There’s no doubt that collectively we realized we were witnessing something of the charts special.

Sigh. On Thursday evening we learned from Berklee President Roger Brown that a literal translation of Belafonte is “beautiful fountain.” Really! And that’s Harry Belafonte’s “Christian name” as they say in some parts. And no name could be more fitting or prophetic to the life he’d lead because a “beautiful fountain” is exactly what he is. He is a fountain that has poured love, and kindness, and generosity, and beauty, and compassion, and all good things to this world and its inhabitants. I am a proud of beneficiary of his legacy.

As I wrote in response to my friend, colleague, and brother in the truth movement Matt Jenson’s blog post Put Under A Spell with Harry Belafonte“if he can do all he did?!?! …we have no excuses. We each can use our lives to unselfishly do a fraction of what all he did to put this planet on the right path.”

Thanks. Yes.

 

#MyEndoMarch #EndoWarrior #WhatWouldLoveDo?

edited (and crazy long).

An update: Valarie Kaur read this post and commented (below) and plans to share it forward. Yay!

This post has been more than 6 months in the making. You see in a surge of excitement that I received a response to an email I’d sent to Valarie Kaur,* I immediately wrote a complete post based on her encouraging me to do so (more on this below). But now months have passed and I’ve posted a ton on a variety of other topics in the interim. Yet I’ve never cleaned up and finished this post. While in many ways it was cathartic to write, when it actually came time to polish and post it, I just couldn’t bring myself to do so.

I’ve tried and found it impossible to pinpoint the root cause of my hesitation. But after spending some time digesting Brené Brown’s teachings, I conjecture the origin is somewhere near the crossroad of vulnerability and shame. Well in the event that’s the case, then it is even more important – critical even – that I complete this post and get it up and out there. Why? Because I believe Brene Brown’s work to be truth.

She’s conducted years of research on vulnerability and shame and she believes “shame is lethal.” In her research she has found that “…true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” She goes on to theorize that “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”

Well I believe her, so here’s my story…

—————–

Back in May 2013 *Valarie Kaur appeared on The Melissa Harris Perry Show (MHP Show) to discuss the attention surrounding Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo an elective mastectomy. After thorough consideration and with professional consultation, Angelina, a #warrior, made the decision to have a mastectomy based on her having a specific breast cancer gene together with her mom’s battle with the illness. - I want to take this moment to send healing light and love to everyone whose lives have been touched by that insidious disease. - Thanks to Susan G. Komen and the prolific pink ribbon campaign, it’s not uncommon to hear about breast cancer in film, television, and TV news.

However only once before, and not since that MHP episode, have I heard anyone on film or television or [television] news utter the words endometriosis or fibroids. The one previous reference that I recall was on an episode of one of my all time favorite shows, Girlfriends, where the character Maya had a myomectomy. (Myomectomy is the surgery to remove uterine fibroids.) In that episode Maya was attempting to conceive and fibroids prevented her pregnancy. If memory serves, Maya was not able to conceive even after the myomectomy. …some women go on to do so and some cannot.

On that MHP episode, Melissa and Valarie felt it important to make mention of lesser-known women’s health issues. Melissa shared her experience with uterine fibroids and the decision she made to have a hysterectomy. (Hysterectomy is the surgery to remove a woman’s uterus. It can be a partial removal where ovaries are left or complete.) Valarie shared her experience with endometriosis as well as her multiyear story to be accurately diagnosed. It’s worth noting that many #EndoWarriors share a similar tale of having known something is wrong for months or even years, seeking treatment from a variety of physicians, then ultimately being diagnosed in a crisis, only to be told by every doctor thereafter, “the earlier the diagnosis the better.”

After that MHP episode I read a blog Valarie authored and posted to The MHP Show website entitled Attention to Women’s Diseases Should Reach Beyond Angelina Jolie. In it Valarie calls women to action: she shares that women must “…organize and strategically tell their stories to break down access barriers for all people.”

So wanting to act but not knowing how, I wrote to Valarie and she graciously wrote me back. In our exchange we talked about our excitement about the Million Women’s March on Washington for Endometriosis in March 2014. Then somewhere in her multi paragraph response Valarie shared the following, “…In the mean time, I think finding brave new ways to tell our stories about the disease helps diminish shame around the issue and encourages other women to step out as well. Posting essays and reflections on blogs, circulating stories on social media, and joining groups of other likeminded women is certainly a place to start.”

So that’s why I write today. I write to tell my story. I write because as Brené Brown says, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”  And I’ll tell you one thing, this is nothing to be ashamed about. In fact it’s quite the opposite. So where to begin?

My earliest memory of just knowing something was off was in 1999. I remember being told by physicians, “you’re healthy as a horse,” “you’ll have to pay another copay (as in I’m not using this visit to investigate your concerns),” and whole host of other silly things. Then, in 2007 (8 loooooong years later), when I was finally diagnosed with uterine fibroids they were huge. Now I’m a petite person and I was told they were the size of a five-month pregnancy.

So I knew I had to have surgery but I put it off as long as possible. Then in 2010 (eleven looooooong years later) I had my first myomectomy (an open one) during which I was diagnosed with endometriosis. I guess the hard part is that all that time, in all those years, was not all bad. However, the times that were bad were excruciating and debilitating and scary as hell and life altering in the sense that I made life decisions based on my fears of my future physical condition.

It’s also worth noting that, due to the size of my fibroids, my first surgery didn’t go so well. Now I don’t recall as much as those who were not on serious drugs at the time might recall. But I do recall, very vividly, the statements the doctors made to me as they rolled me into an emergency second surgery late that evening. I won’t go into all that here, but know that I knew that saving my life was the primary objective. So when I woke up in ICU the next day, I had a ton of questions because I didn’t know what all they had to do.

Thankfully additional internal stitches and five blood transfusions and platelets were enough. So then I spent that day and the next in the ICU with amazing professional care and with friends visiting and playing games all the while I was getting hangry (hungry + angry – I’m especially #2) as hell cause they would not feed me until certain physiological conditions were met.

To date I’ve had three-ish surgeries in four years: an open myomectomy w/ an appendectomy because apparently I’d had an appendicitis but missed it due to my freakishly high tolerance for pain** (what can I say, I didn’t feel well the week before, but I kept it moving #EndoWarrior), a laproscopic myomectomy in 2012, and a hysteroscopic myomectomy in 2013. (I say three-ish because my first surgery resulted in my need to have that second surgery that same evening.)

There is so so so much more to this story that I’ll have to post a part two at some point but for right now I want to shift focus. I’ll be honest it’s because I don’t want to think about the pain**, the fear, or the ridiculous crap some licensed physicians did or did not do to me. But it’s not just that I don’t want to talk about it. I also wish to shift focus because, as I sit here and reflect on the past and the stress that fibroids and endo have been, I am also very conscious of a parallel tale…

…And this will sound absolutely crazy: I am unbelievably grateful to endo and even for past days of excruciating pain.** Why the hell?!: Because that pain taught me how to lean. And I am extremely grateful to endo, and for those days of past excruciating pain,** for showing me beyond a shadow of a doubt who in my world can and will support my weight when I’m leaning:

  • I’m thankful for the people who allow(ed) me to call, even in the middle of the night, when I wasn’t feeling well.
  • I’m thankful for those who have been willing to take me to and from the doctor when I could not take myself.
  • I’m thankful to those who have held my hand on my way into surgery and who have been there when I woke up.
  • I am thankful to the ICU angels from surgery number 1 (and 1b). Seemingly a prerequisite to being an ICU nurse is to be one of the best people on earth.
  • I’m thankful for my friend who taught me to meditate and who continues to meditate with me from time to time. Sometimes meditation is/was the difference between me leaving the house for the day or surrendering to pain for the day. Meditation is wicked powerful friends.
  • I am thankful to my kitty cat, Grace Anne, who just knows how to take care of me when I’m not well. #PetOwnersGetThis
  • I’m thankful for and to the people who cooked for me and cleaned for me or just sat with me.
  • I am thankful that I have a somewhat flexible job and an understanding team and supervisor.
  • I am incredibly thankful that I have good health insurance. And I am thankful that, going forward, I cannot be denied health insurance due to my pre-existing condition thanks to The Affordable Care Act.
  • I’m thankful to all my doctors and all the surgeons. The latter many of whom I will never know.
  • I am thankful for an amazing encounter with a phlebotomist who transformed my experience with blood draws.
  • I’m thankful for my newest doctors at the Boston Center for Endometriosis. They performed my last surgery in July and have a different, positive, energy around these issues than I’ve experienced with other doctors in the decade previous.
  • I am thankful to Lisa and Laura and Dr. Z. I am thankful for CBT because “I’m not always in pain.”
  • I am incredibly grateful for the many people in my life who never make me feel like I am a burden.
  • I am thankful for and to those who gave me cash to take a taxi when I had to go home, bringing me peanut butter (because PB&J is my power pellet) when I ran out and couldn’t get it for myself, sending me quotes and words of inspiration and cards and flowers and cookies, driving me around town when I just needed to get out, driving my car when I couldn’t drive it home…
  • And on and on and on and on and on and on…

Now do I wish that I’d been able to discern these things on my own without the help of endo? Absolutely! I’m not crazy and I’m not going to lie and say, “I wouldn’t trade this…” …cause I would trade it for some things. But I will say this: endo separates the cowards from the brave. It can bring you to your knees and really show you what you’re made of. Also endo sifts out the ride-or-die from the punks. It has a way of showing you who is going to be there for you no matter what. And it provides a thorough answer to the question, “What would love do?”

So for me #MyEndoMarch is about my extreme gratitude for having people show up for me over and over and over again in ways you could not imagine. So I guess like anything else, it’s not all horrible right?! And, suffice it to say, I have an impossible time feeling afflicted when I am surrounded by so much love.

—————–

*Valarie Kaur is an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights advocate, and interfaith leader who centers her work around the power of storytelling. She is the founder of Groundswell at Auburn Seminary, a non-profit initiative with 100,000 members that equips people of faith in social change. She has led national campaigns responding to hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detention, marriage equality, and solitary confinement. Valarie is a prolific public speaker and frequent political contributor on MSNBC to the Melissa Harris-Perry Show

**I’m not (nor was I) always in pain. And really since my last surgery in July 2013, I’m never in what I consider pain – just a little discomfort here and there. #ThankYouJesus & #ThankYouBWHCenterForEndo

Brené Brown quotes from Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

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